CONFEDERATE NEWSPAPER DESCRIBED GEOGRAPHY FACING 'VANDAL ABOLITION HORDES IN THE NORTH'
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
The Confederate Charleston S.C. newspaper, "The Charleston Mercury," of July 12, 1862, inserted an article concerning the area of the Cumberland Mountains and its part in the Civil War. Its title is The War in Tennessee - The Theatre of the War in Tennessee - Its Strategic Points. It goes as such:
As East Tennessee is about to become the theatre of important military operations for its possession by the vandal abolition hordes of the North, a description of this portion of it, extending to the Cumberland Mountains, will not be uninteresting. The following will give the reader an idea of the general nature of the country of East Tennessee, as well as some of the most important points on the theatre of the war.
The physical geography of East Tennessee is very peculiar and intricate in its character, being marked by that extraordinary phenomenon of nature, which mingles the wonderful with the beautiful and sublime. It is a vast valley of an exceedingly rich agricultural nature, extending from the Cumberland Mountains on the west to the Allegheny on the east. Its remarkable feature consists in the formation of a number of parallel and subordinate valleys, separated by precipitous ridges, and well drained by rivers respectively: the Powell, Clinch, Holston, and French Broad.
The Cumberland Mountains, toward the east, presents a sheer precipices, the very base of which rests upon Powell's Valley, one of the most fertile regions of this department. The immense ridge has several depressed indentations; the most famous and practicable of which is Cumberland Gap. Below Cumberland Gap are several other depressions in the mountains, the principal of which are Wilson's Gap, eighteen miles, and Big Creek Gap, thirty-seven distant from the Cumberland.
Westward from this ridge a vast wilderness of mountains extending for over one-hundred and twenty miles toward Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.
The wagon road from Cumberland Gap to Morristown, which is forty miles, runs directly across the valleys of the Powell, Clinch, and Holston rivers. This road is the great route through which the emigrants from North Carolina first passed to Kentucky, and over which the drovers still make their way from Kentucky to the Atlantic States.
Through the center of East Tennessee and parallel to the mountains runs the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, following the valley drained by the Holston, the largest tributary of the Tennessee, and passes through Morristown to Knoxville. The Clinch Mountains, which is about eight miles west of Morristown, is the only serious barrier to the advance of the enemy's columns during the season when the rivers are fordable, and consequently presents a strong strategic point.
Another route from Cumberland Gap is down Powell's Valley, running along the base of the mountains to Jacksboro and Clinton, where it crosses the Clinch River to Knoxville. This route is nearly double the distance of that above mentioned, but is by far the best for military operations.
Thus it will be seen that to advance upon us the enemy must leave his stronghold at Cumberland Gap, which no longer became a strategical point of importance to us, and fight us on a battle ground of our selection. Besides, the moment he leaves Cumberland Gap, where it is almost impossible to subsist an army, he loses the advantage and its defence, and, therefore his present occupation of it is but of small moment.
The Tennessee River, assuming that name after the junction of the Holston and little Tennessee - which latter flows transverly to the course of the mountainous region of North Carolina - receiving afterwards a large increase from the Clinch River, breaks its way through the Cumberland chain at and below Chattanooga. Consequently, by a glance at the map, it will be seen that Cumberland Gap and Chattanooga are the two great transverse fissures through the continuous ridges of the Cumberland Mountains by which East Tennessee may be entered.
Another route of military importance at that point is the old road from Knoxville to Nashville, passing through Kingston, which is situated at the junction of the Clinch and Tennessee rivers, and continuing by Sparta, upon the western slope of the Cumberland, passes through Pikeville, McMinville, and Murfreesboro to Nashville.
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